On this Saturday afternoon towards the end of siesta time on a hot 30 degree C/86 F day, I am relaxing in my second-story, darkened room, when I suddenly hear the mariachi performing a live concert in a backyard garden, a few houses further up the calle. So lovely how the trumpet is skilfully dancing its tune, after which the violins and guitars are answering with a slightly different variation of the leading trumpet’s melody, line after line. This is a musical discussion between the brass and the string sections. Unfortunately, I cannot hear the singers’ voices from this distance, but I do hear the ‘ole’s and ‘bravo’s from the audience and the firecrackers.
Mexico, you know how to have a party; your fiestas are joyful, always musical, and creative in many other ways. I want to put that all in my suitcase when I will prepare to leave for the cold climate in Canada in two weeks, and take it with me.
(Fiesta of Chapala 2016)
After having lived for six months in my little town in Mexico I am returning to my other home. Most of the snowbirds have already left. It doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, as more Americans than before seem to stay year-round now. Weekends are very busy here with the crowds from Guadalajara flooding the town. The carretera (the highway through town that connects the lakeside villages) is slow going with bumper-to-bumper traffic, like the highway 97 through Kelowna, but luckily still just two lanes, although that undoubtedly will also change in the future. (Have you also noticed that this expression—in the future—is not used anymore? Media commentators now say: going forward. I wonder what happened that the future has become so unpopular.)
There is a building boom going on. Many young men are working, and since the work is here much more often manual or completed with less mechanical appliances, and lots of crafts still are used in the construction of the houses, lots of men are working, and still, more men are needed.
I did manage to get the befriended painter-artist to make me a set of wardrobes with paintings on the doors. But I can’t get my handyman to finish the job of hanging the sunshade back up on the second floor. He doesn’t answer my call about when this is going to happen. He likely has his hands full with other work, now that there is no difference anymore for him between ‘the season’ and ‘off-season.’ Well, it’s not an emergency. It can wait.
Money is streaming into Ajijic: foreign money and local money, and from Mexicans living elsewhere. I read on the CNN online publication that Mexicans in the USA sent home $26.1 billion from January to November 2017, according to figures released by the central bank of Mexico. That’s the most ever recorded and better than the $24.1 billion sent in 2016 over the same period. The total annual figure for 2017 is on pace to hit another record high. Remittances are one of Mexico’s top sources of foreign income, outpacing oil exports, which totaled $18.5 billion between January and October, according to the most recent figures available at the Bank of Mexico. Manufacturing exports are the top source of foreign income for Mexico.
(Mexico is growing and becoming an economic powerhouse. Photos from 1950s.)
Trump, eat your heart out. That wall is not being built and not being paid for by Mexico. And by the way, if Mexican cartels would not buy your American weapons, the gun dealers would have to close their stores. A U of San Diego study into guns in the USA stated that if US dealers couldn’t sell to Mexico, 47% of gun dealers would go out of business. I think Mexico would be better off if there was a wall and if it kept those guns out. I never heard Trump own up to the fact that his nation’s gun dealers are a liability for Mexico.
(History is not going to be repeated where white invaders and their clergy could exploit the people of Mexico – mural in Chapala’s town hall).
At the same time, federal and municipal elections are in the works. The push for voters’ allegiance is on. It is really noticeable that the public works budgets are being spent right now on public projects to impress the public. At the local level, the main street has new, even, sidewalks of embossed concrete, and even a bicycle path is laid from the Walmart site on the edge of town to right in the center of town and stops by my turn-off on Juarez. A reporter from the Ojo de Lago (an English-language monthly magazine) had done research and knew that the municipality of Chapala had hired twice as many employees as the previous mayor. All businesses were asked to paint their fronts. The place looks outright clean, tidy, and better maintained.
Hola! The mariachis have started up their gig again, probably with a cevesa or tequila or two in them. I hear singing now too. Wonderful. I am beginning to recognize the melodies lately. It’s time I get myself a drink too.
If you have a thought about visiting me between December and May, you are welcome. Just know and understand that I live in a Mexican neighborhood, not a cleaned up version of it where mostly gringos live, and definitively not a gated community. It would help to feel comfortable if you learn some basic Spanish, like hola, buenos dias, and buenas noches, and gracias, haha, and Quiero un margarita por favor. I heard my American friend (who has spent a good part of her youth here and lives here most of the year) complain that lately there are too many gringos, and she misses the Mexicans. Not at my place: I definitively live in the barrio.
And January/February can be cold, relatively speaking, so take warm clothes too. No, not your minus 20 coat, but jeans, socks, and a sweater or puffy will do. And bring good shoes, because all the other streets are still built with uneven sidewalks and cobblestones from the 17thcentury—not the civilized, uniformly shaped, manufactured cobbles from Europe and from your landscape place—but uneven and natural rocks (even in the sidewalk).
Too bad, the mariachis are done. I have enjoyed the two sets of each 45 minutes. That is a costly affair. Must be an important anniversary or birthday. I should be starting to think how I want to celebrate my next birthday here—the big one: 70!
Time for my dip in my little pool to cool off and have that drink. This April was hotter here than ever, people told me. I bought a lounge chair today for sitting on the patio. The music is already taken care of: modern music now, don’t know who plays it, but likely my neighbor behind me.